Sunday August 21
Anchors up with no snags and the 5 boats retracing the route back to Kota Kinabalu were soon underway. Esoterica, Beau Soleil, Songbird 50, Psycho Puss and ourselves. No slow coaches or “difficult” personalities here.
A SW breeze picked up slowly and by 13Nm we had the kite up with the full Main. We had the best sail of the whole trip averaging over 9 knots for the next 30 NM to our anchorage on Mabul Island.
While we had no formal escort from ESSCOM we had 3 boats nearby during the day and another 3 made themselves known to us once we had anchored. We kept a loose watch all night figuring between 12 middle aged adults needing to get up for a pee we should have the night covered.
Monday August 22
The swell made the night uncomfortable for the monos and we weren't much better off so we all elected to move on back to Bohay Dulong. ESSCOM was notified of our change of plan and we were off for another great Spinnaker run for the short 23 NM run. ESSCOM pulled up Songbird 50 asking them to head back inshore as they were getting too close to Phillipine waters. We found out later that a few days after we went through another kidnapping took place in this area and another one has occured since then.
We took the route through the southern passage that we had surveyed last time. Songbird 50 and Beau Soleil took the long way. We settled in for a few days R&R. It was John's birthday on the 23rd so we had a celebratory pot luck dinner on the jetty. Lea came down with a bad case of the flu so it was good to give her a few days to rest.
We still managed a couple of climbs up the hill.
We left on the 25th and made our way to Sandakan over the next 3 days. It was amusing at Palau Evans, the scene of the squall that caused us to drag onto US Anthem and Esoterica to hit Psycho Puss, as all boats anchored miles away from each other. Heavy rain one night filled the dinghy and Lea took the opportunity to do the washing as we sailed along. We also caught a nice Spanish Mack that day which we shared with the fleet.
Saturday August 27
We pushed on to Sandakan the next day. 63 NM with only light winds.
Many sail changes and gybes left Lea up to her ankles in ropes
Spinnakers were up and even Songbird 50 raised their micro spinnaker.
They had a tough time putting it away as their sock ring broke and wouldn't slide down to snuff the sail.
Took 3 goes to set the anchor with a big storm on its way accross the harbour. Not very happy with our anchor at the moment and considering going for the next size up. The storm looked very black and angry but only hit us with 20 knots.
Sunday August 28
Lea happy to get off the boat as she is still trying to shake off the flu. It was good to stretch the legs with walk up the hill to Agnes Keiths house to purchase her other 2 books recounting her wartime experience as a POW and her subsequent return to Borneo with her husband to commence the rebuilding following the war.
Monday August 29
Walked to the wet market to stock up on vegies. Lea got a haircut and we picked up the laundry. Then off to the Oranutan Rehab Centre which we missed on our earlier vist here. The juveniles were delightful. The handlers try to keep them off the ground as in the wild this is when they are most vulnerable. However, these kids think this is a great game and as soon as the handlers backs are turned they are gambolling all across the lawn.
Tuesday August 30
A late start waiting for the ebb tide out of Sandakan. Bright sunshine made the Berhala Island cliffs look very spectacular.
Ever optomistic we put up the Main then motored the whole 17Nm to Turtle Isand. We were contacted by a land based surveillance station that had seen Esoterica turn around into the wind to drop her Main.The Coastal Station wanted to make sure that all was ok. Again we were feeling very safe as ESSCOM assets were rarely out of sight.
Wednesday August 31
Another later start to make use of the north flowing ebb tide. Again we had to motor the whole 19Nm to Palau Langayan.
This is a beautiful small island surrounded with extensive reefs and pristine white sand beaches not far from the Phillipine Border. We could not get high res Google Earth pictures of the Island so we suspected a significant military presence. Sure enough this privately managed exclusive dive resort has more military personnel than guests. We noted 2 machine gun emplacements and a radar station. We elected not to take photos of the island for security reasons. The office and reception are out the end of a long jetty built in an octogonal shape with beautiful hardwood timbers.
We had picked up a mooring and then spent some time in the crystal clear water hull cleaning. A few barnacles but not too bad. Songbird 50 was visited by resort staff and we were given a run down on do's, dont's and costs.
We went ashore for a look and paid our 25MYR pp Conservation fee for the day. The other costs were a little unreasonable, we thought, so after a good look around we decided to have dinner on board with Rod and Heather off Psycho Puss. The others had dinner ashore.
Thursday September 1
A grey breezy morning wasnt the best for snorkelling the reefs but we had to go anyway. There were patches of great coral but not much fish life. I was towing the dinghy in the strong current and had soon had enough. Lea joined Adi off Beau Soleil to watch a turtle resting on the bottom .
We left at midday in light winds that gradually built to a pleasant 12 knots. Another great sail under Main and Spinnaker for 10 of our 25 Nm for the day to Jambongan
Friday September 2
The GRIB files were spot on today and leaving early meant that we avoided having to motor into strong headwinds. ESSCOM sent Esoterica some photos of our boats taken by one of the Coastal Surveillance Stations along the way at one of the small islands. Good to know they are watching! The level of protection we have received has been fantastic and with anchoring off military bases most nights we have felt very safe.
We arrived at Karrakit before the NW set in and enjoyed a walk through the village. Pot luck dinner on Beau Soleil as they would be leaving us tomorrow for a haul out at Kudat.
Saturday September 3
Our planned early start was delayed by a search for Esoterica's dinghy which had gone AWOL last night. ESSCOM had been notified and had searched late last night but without success. It was quite choppy already so Ian off Songbird 50 offered his dinghy to go and search at first light. Fortunately the dinghy was found in the mangroves a few NM down wind of us. After a difficult extraction over the reef and a slog into the wind and chop the recovery was complete. It was a sobering reminder just how dependant we are on our little dinghies in these remore areas.
We rang the dads for fathers day as we suspected we would have no phone service tomorrow. After some discussion about the weather we decided to slog across to east side of the cape and anchor up well protected from the strond westerlies we were experiencing. So off we went bashing into 16knot headwinds and a choppy Sulu Sea. 20 Nm with 2 engines at 1800 RPM averaging 5.5 knots.
It was worth the discomfort as the anchorage was lovely off a white beach in 6m clean sand and clear water. We jumped in the dinghy and explored a small river exiting close by before the tide dropped.
We went about a Nm up the river edged with mangroves and sand stone. The trees were overhanging and we had to weave our way in. Very secluded and quiet but we saw no wildlife.
Drinks on the beach was very pleasant.
Sunday September 4
Another 0600 sart to try and beat the headwinds. War ship ” Uncicorn Bravo” was watching over us all night just offshore. She followed us to the tip of Borneo. Here we ran into headwinds and had an hour or so punching into it to get to our anchorage, number 144 in the Sail Malaysia Guide. We bunched up tight behind the Island to get out of the swell. Esoterica was rolling badly so Lea and I surveyed the bay with the Dragonfly and iPad. Armed with a new Sonarchart we were able to show John that he could safely anchor much further in out of the swell.
A beach walk before lunch only to find that the nearby buildings were privately owned villas and not a Resort. Hence no coffee shop or restaurant. Bugger! Settled for an afternoon movie ( Jupiter Rising) on board Songbird 50 complete with popcorn and drinks. Good fun!
Monday September 5
It hasn't been often that we have been held back by the weather but today the forecast of 15knot headwinds was very unappealing. Quiet day instead with a brief walk/scramble up to the top of the island followed by a brisk walk up the road for a few kms.
Tuesday September 6
Said goodbye to Songbird and Psycho. They were heading direct to KK with 1 overnight stop. Esoterica and us were heading for Mantanani Island.
A light rain and threatening skies made us a little wary of putting up the Main. The storm cells didn't develop and we motored the 28 Nm to the Island, admiring the white beached and gorgeous aquamarine water. The reefs were easy to see even in the overcast conditions. To get out of the swell we headed between the 2 islands of the group to anchor in nice clear sand in 7m. Many dive boats around so we were soon in the water for a snorkel. Very disappointing! The coral was all brown with lots of rubble. Not much height to the coral and no fish over 10cm. The occaisional bommie held a bit of interest but overall it was very poor. This area is not a NP and we were soon joined by local fishing boats trying to rape the empty reef further.
Pork Roast and game of 500 with Esoterica was a very pleasant end to the day.
Wednesday September 7
Leisurely start to the day as we waited for the overcast sky to clear. The sun came out mid morning and we headed ashore to the main island to explore. The amount of rubbish and dead wood on the beach was astounding. It was so thick you couldnt even walk from the beach up to the shoreline track.
We spoke to a European Backpacker who was cleaning up the beach in front of the Greenhouse Guest House where he works as a volunteer. He told us that there had been a big storm about a month ago which had deposited a lot of the debris and rubbish. In one month only three businesses had cleaned up their beachfront. Some effort had been made in the past to clean up but the bags of rubbish were just lying there falling apart.
The village beach was the worst area with nappies, food packaging and plastic water bottles strewn everywhere. The actual village precinct was quite clean. Its a real shame because without the rubbish this place is spectacular. Add in healthy reefs protected from fishing and it would be fantastic and not too far from KK.
We were encouraged to see these new garbage compacters on the beach. Hopefully, they get put to good use soon.
Erosion is another big issue.
We were also surprised to see many local fishermen offering live crayfish, abalone and reef fish for sale to Chinese Day Trippers. They wheeled there wares around in wheelbarrows. Some even had battery powered aquarium pumps to oxygenate the water and keep their stock alive for longer.
We walked the length of the Southern Shore and back stopping for an icecream along the way. Heading back to the boats we tried another snorkel spot listed as “Giant Clam Garden”. It was little better than we saw yesterday and not a clam to be seen. This area need to be declared a NP, cleaned up and protected. Fabulous sunset.
Thursday September 8
A long motor to Palua Gaya just off KK. Polis Bay was stiflingly hot until the rain came. Dinner on board Esoterica.
Friday September 9
Bucketed down all night and continued all morning. Still warm so Lea went out and scrubbed the boat taking advantage of the autorinse function provided by the rain. I caught up on the blog. We almost decided to stay another night but with a break in the weather we followed Esoterica outside Palau Gaya into the biggest swells seen on this trip. It was rollacoaster ride into Sutera Harbour Marina where we were warmly greeted with many hands to tie up. We were devastared to find that the Olympic size pool was out of action for repairs. Caught up with friends. Another leg of our journey completed.